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3. The Opportunities and Challenges of Cloud Computing

The adoption of new digital technologies, and the challenges arising from it are the subject of important EU regulations such as, among others, Regulations (EU) 2016/679 and 2018/1807 (known as GDPR and free flow of non-personal data), Directive 2016/1148 (known as the NIS Directive), and national security legislation, such as Law 133/2019 (National Security Perimeter for Cyber (Perimetro di Sicurezza Nazionale Cibernetica, PSNC) [2].

3.1 Technological Autonomy

In order to govern and manage the country’s digital transformation processes, as recognised by the main European institutions, autonomy in the control of the digital infrastructure of the Cloud and, consequently, of the storage and processing of data appears to have enormous strategic importance [3].

It is well known, however, that the market shares of European companies’ Cloud infrastructures represent a residual value (less than 10%) compared to those held by non-EU companies [4]. However, this criticality is not only limited to digital services and platforms, but also, and most importantly, to the infrastructures that enable them to function.

Given such a contractual weakness of the EU, the massive adoption of Cloud technology for the provision of PA services is subject to risks such as in the case of unilateral changes in the terms of services: increased costs or service interruption, or to actions that are potentially beyond the control of the country. Achieving technological autonomy has important implications, not only in terms of the possibility of exerting direct control over data and services, but also in terms of promoting an ecosystem of technologies (Cloud Computing, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing) which is essential for the country’s development.

3.2 Control over Data

The operation of cloud services by providers in non-EU countries poses an additional risk due to the regulations in place in those countries. As it is well known, non-EU legislation [5] may allow - provided certain circumstances - unilateral requests to the CSP to provide access to data. These cases involve the possibility for a non-EU country to access data (or data flows) that are particularly sensitive and strategic for the EU Member States’ citizens and institutions. In this perspective, within the framework of the strategy, it is necessary to clearly determine - via a classification procedure - the types of data that can be managed by a non-EU provider through a Public Cloud and which data instead will need to be managed by a Cloud provider that meets specific security requirements in order to reduce the risk that the data may be accessible to non-EU governments. The management of such risks does have, inevitably, not only technological but also geopolitical implications that should receive adequate consideration.

3.3 Aspects of Resilience

Cloud infrastructures and services supporting PA applications and national essential entities must adopt appropriate procedural and technical security measures, as well as redundancy and interoperability operations. The application of layered security controls (e.g. pseudonymisation, encryption with on-premise key management) in compliance with the specific requirements of the data processed, as well as service continuity and disaster recovery measures available throughout the entire national territory, will increase the level of resilience against incidents such as cyber attacks and breakdowns.

In particular, although international practices and technical standards are widely applied by Cloud service providers, given the criticality of the data and services involved, the Cloud migration strategy requires a certification process of public Cloud providers and their services. The qualification must assess not only the security dimension but also the architectural and organisational aspects which may have negative impacts on the resilience, e.g. vendor lock-in situations. Another important direction, in line with the recent initiatives and directives of the European Digital Agenda [6], is the standardisation, harmonisation and interoperability of Cloud services. Within this context, and with the aim of developing common requirements for a European data infrastructure, the GAIA-X project [7] was launched; since the project’s inception Italy had an active involvement in its development. The project, designed for European based companies, has the objective to build an open and resilient digital ecosystem through the federation of cloud services. This ecosystem is built on common standards, ensures transparency and interoperability, capable of connecting centralised and decentralised infrastructures, and transforming them into a homogeneous system.

Figure showing Cloud Computing challenges.
[2]Conversion into law, with amendments, of Leg. Decree 21 September 2019, no. 105, on urgent provisions concerning the National Cyber Security Perimeter.
[3]OECD (2019) Regulation and IRC: challenges posed by the digital transformation. 20th meeting of the Regulatory Policy Committee, 17-18 April 2018, OECD Conference Centre, Paris, France.
[4]See, for example, and and–computing-trends-right/#5b30ee4468a2.
[5]Examples are the National Intelligence Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act) or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA).